Jun 28 2017

Downward Dog – Alignment Tips

 Downward-Facing Dog or Adho mukha śvānāsana to give it its proper yoga name is a common pose found in most styles of yoga and of course in Les Mills BODYBALANCE. It’s a fantastic pose that will strengthen, stretch and can also be used to “rest” in between sequences. Getting the alignment correct will help you to feel all the benefits of this pose and will help you to fall in love with it and how it makes you feel.Downward Facing Dog

Set your hands at shoulder width, with fingers spread wide so you feel the floor with the whole palm of hand. Feet should be set hips’ distance apart. Press the floor away and lift your sit bones as high as you can then push your chest back towards your thighs.

In the beginning you will want/need to bend your knees so that you can accomplish better alignment. Most people have tight hamstrings so achieving correct positioning with straight legs is very challenging at first. The heels will most likely be slightly above the floor and that is fine, if not recommended! Whilst holding the pose, have the feeling that you want to push your heels closer and closer to the floor.

Adho mukha śvānāsana – Downward Facing Dog

Then, once in the basic shape of the pose, there are some amazing refinements you can make which will create totally different sensations in your body.

Try these:

Hands – Spread the fingers really wide and press the mound between thumb and first finger firmly into the floor. We want to avoid raised palms in order to counteract the rotation of the upper arms.

Arms – Feel as if you are rotating your forearms in towards each other and that you are rotating your upper arms out, This will help to create more space in your shoulder girdle and will give your neck and ears more space.

Neck alignment – Try to maintain “Mountain Pose” alignment in your spine, neck and head. This means that each of these are in a perfectly straight line with the other. Your head will be in between your biceps in most cases. Remember the neck is still part of the spine so we want to avoid any extension or contraction which will break the beautiful alignment.

Shoulders – Slide your shoulder blades down towards the waist into a soft “V” shape, As we’re upside down it’s very common for the shoulders to follow gravity’s pull and lower towards the floor, or in this case, our ears. Push them gently away to create space in the neck area.

Tail bone – Whilst lifting and separating the sit bones, have the feeling you are trying to lengthen the tail bone down/away. This helps to prevent arching through the lower back area. Lift the belly gently into the body to provide more stability.

Legs – Rotate your inner thighs inwards towards each other and notice how you can then really tip your sit bones up and out,

Feet – Slightly turn the heels out – we want the inside line of the feet parallel and for most of us this means turning heels out a little. This enables more space in the lower back. As mentioned above, we should think about pressing heels towards the floor to create that wonderful stretching sensation.downward dog anatomy


Try these tips and observe how they change your execution of this fabulous pose. It’s definitely one of my favourites. Let me know how you get on in the comments!

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